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Water tasting event started small, now it's global

February 20, 2007|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. The water tasting event that began 17 years ago was designed to attract visitors during the winter months when business is slow in this tourist town.

Jeanne Mozier, business owner and board member of Travel Berkeley Springs (TBS), said the newly-formed agency hired Becky Kimmons, who runs Katalyst, a Charleston, W.Va., public relations firm, to "help us formulate our plan."

Mozier said some business members were pushing for a ski slope at Cacapon State Park back in the early 1990s, but she saw a lot of problems with that plan. She proposed that Travel Berkeley Springs instead would package the "Winter Festival of the Waters," a January-through-March schedule of events that would promote Berkeley Springs and bring in tourists.

Kimmons told Mozier that with Travel Berkeley Springs' minimum budget, free press was needed and the events would give the press something to write about. TBS got it going with flyers and advertisements, Mozier said.

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"I learned a lot from Becky; she's an ace," Mozier said.

Kimmons knew about water tastings and she got in touch with Arthur von Wiesenberger, a noted expert and author from Santa Barbara, Calif. He was hired as the water master for the first Berkeley Springs water tasting event in 1991. Mozier said Wiesenberger has been the water master every year.

There was not a lot of bottled water in 1991, so municipal water was the focus, and "Arthur brought people in," she said. About 27 waters were represented the first year, Mozier said. Regional waters were tasted, and several West Virginia waters were winners, Mozier said.

The water tasting event has grown to include more than 100 entries from the U.S. and 11 countries in five different categories: municipal water, both still and sparkling bottled water, purified drinking water and packaging design, said Jill Klein Rone, the event's producer.

Klein Rone said when Bosnia won the sparkling water category in 1996, the event became more international and other countries began to participate. In 2001, Canada won the municipal water category.

"Water is our most important natural resource, and we can't live without it. This event draws attention to its importance, highlights the problems and celebrates good pure water," she said.

A water seminar Water: Our Legacy - will be held Friday afternoon and addresses industry issues and includes speakers, she said. A wine and cheese reception will be held 5 to 6 p.m. to meet the bottlers and municipal representatives.

On Saturday afternoon and evening, the media judges will taste the top waters, and the winners will be announced in the evening.

Mozier said the most dramatic change over the years is in the packaging. While about 12 members of the media taste and judge the water, the People's Choice award for best packaging includes the public's vote and is announced Saturday evening.

More than 200 people attended last year's event, Klein Rone said.

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